The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

May 5, 2014

Now it's your turn, Redskins owner

Now that the National Basketball Association has banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Don Sterling for life over his racist comments, how about those Washington Redskins?

Sterling is getting punished for insults that he uttered in private. Washington Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder insults Native American Indians in public every day that he refuses to change the team’s name.

Old protests over the team’s name emerged again a year ago when 10 members of the Congressional Native American Caucus sent Snyder a letter urging him to change the team’s name.

Snyder memorably rebuffed mounting pressure with a resounding declaration that he would “NEVER,” all caps, change the team’s name.

But now that Sterling has made himself so embarrassing that even his fellow team owners are hard pressed to defend him, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is encouraged.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat who says his state has 22 tribes, argued in a Senate floor speech after Sterling’s ban that the National Football League should treat racial slurs as seriously as the National Basketball Association treated Sterling’s racism. That means, Reid said, they should force the owner of Washington’s professional football team to change its name.

“How long will the NFL continue to do nothing, zero, as one of its teams bears a name that inflicts so much pain on Native Americans?” Reid said.

Good question. It’s not like a name change can’t be done, as Washington basketball fans know. When the Washington “Bullets” sounded inappropriate for the pro basketball team in a city suffering through an epidemic of gun-related homicides, the late Abe Pollin in 1997 changed the team’s name to the “Wizards.”

Aside from scattered objections from some critics who complained that the name reminded them of Ku Klux Klan (you can’t please everybody), the Wizards’ name change stuck.

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